Louise Bethune: America’s First Female Architect

Thursday, May 16, 2024 | 7PM


A 2023 book by a University of Buffalo architect uncovers and explores previously unknown aspects of the largely veiled life and career of Buffalo’s Louise Blanchard Bethune, America’s first professional female architect and designer of Dunkirk’s Brooks Mansion, now the current site of Brooks Hospital.


Kelly Hayes McAlonie, FAIA, UB director of campus planning, will discuss her book, “Louise Blanchard Bethune: Every Woman Her Own Architect,” as part of the Chautauqua County History Lecture Series.


Until now, Bethune’s accomplishments have never received thorough examination and treatment. Several factors contributed to that obscurity, including the loss of Bethune’s personal and professional papers, along with her firm’s construction documents and office records. For years, only one photograph of her was known to exist. Male architects also had what Hayes McAlonie calls a “collective amnesia” regarding the early work of the women who broke the profession’s gender barrier.


But Hayes McAlonie’s discovery of new archival material has allowed her to develop the first full portrait of Bethune’s trailblazing career in the male-dominated architectural profession.


“Bethune was a woman of her time, but she remains a woman of our time, a historical figure with profound contemporary relevance,” says Hayes McAlonie.


“Hayes McAlonie has written a vital work of recovery to change the historical record about the life and career of Louise Blanchard Bethune. As the first professional woman architect in the United States and a trailblazer, Bethune believed women should have opportunities equal to men and developed pathways to pursue architecture for women who would follow. One of the most prominent and prolific architectural practices in Buffalo at the time, her firm profoundly shaped one of the largest and most industrial, wealthy, and progressive cities in the country. Although she encountered extreme sexism and misogyny during her career, her success speaks volumes about her tenacity and strength to persevere in a system where few women were present and remains an inspiration to us all.” — Lori A. Brown, FAIA, School of Architecture, Syracuse University


Dedicated ambassador of the profession, staunch advocate for gender equity and visionary leader, Hayes McAlonie has elevated the appreciation of architecture by developing education initiatives and advocating for design excellence in public architecture. She has devoted her career to educational architecture, advancing the profession, and telling Louise Bethune’s story.


Free Admission (Donations Accepted)



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Free Admission